Zen Martial Arts Center

Sacramento Martial Arts and Karate

A Review of: Karate-Do, My Way of Life by Gichin Funakoshi

A Review of:

Karate-Do, My Way of Life by Gichin Funakoshi

Karate-Do covers the many historical steps that have shaped present day Karate. Gichin Funakoshi was fundamental in bringing Karate to popularity in mainstream culture.  For this to happen, he sacrificed time away from his family and community in Okinawa. His dedication gave Karate the opportunity to be accepted and widely available to a larger part of the population.

His life was a constant attempt to not only become an expert in the practice of Karate, but to truly understand and live within the fundamental principles taught within the art of Karate. He continued to improve and practice Karate throughout his life while opening the doors of Karate to the world.  Aside from self-defense, Karate teachings include health, being an active member of society, developing the mind, and restraint.


Funakoshi began training in Karate as a child. Karate is what he accounts to changing him from a sickly child towards a lifetime of excellent health.  “I realized my health had improved tremendously, and that I was no longer the frail child I had been.” (pg.4)  Health was one of the primary benefits of Karate listed by Funakoshi. He proposed that it would be beneficial to study Karate purely for the health reasons even if there was no interest in self-defense.

Member of Society:

There was a general underlying tone, and sometimes direct, that one of the key components of Karate is “mastering the art of being a good and honest member of society “(pg.101). Examples were given throughout the book and can be seen in our training at the Dojo every day. We are taught to have respect for the community within and outside the Dojo. This skill is exercised by being mindful of others and respectfully greeting those we come in contact with. “Karate begins and ends with courtesy” – (pg.32 )  Students within our Dojo are encouraged to work on projects that improve their community and assist organizations with the same mission. Funakoshi regarded mastering this skill as important as mastering defensive skills.


Along with the body, Karate strengthens the mind. A strong mind includes discipline, ongoing education, self-esteem, and self-confidence. Confidence is a primary tool in Karate. If you represent yourself as though you will lose; you have already failed in your initial defense. Funakoshi described the lesson from one of his teachers, Master Azato. A swordsman was beaten by Master Azato. Part of Master Azato’s technique was not displaying fear. The swordsman was not given the reaction of fear he was accustomed to. This concept can also be seen in the tournaments our dojo attends where part of the victory is expressing great heart.


Funakoshi wrote about several examples of being put in a position of potential harm to his physical body and or pride; but, held great restraint in a reaction. His teachers were adamant in the practice of restraint. At one point his entire class was confronted with “thugs” yet they avoided the confrontation. There were times that he did make mistakes and he was quick to point out his own internal faults. As an older man, Funakoshi was threatened with robbery. Funakoshi maintained politeness and respect and only responded physically when the assailant tried to steal his umbrella. But even then his defense was limited to a minimal amount of force.

Master Funakoshi used this book to bring together the basics of Karate. The reader learns quickly that Karate is much more than a self-defense. Karate is made of several essential factors. Your health is a part of Karate; including diet, physical exercise, balance, and grooming. Your mind is a part of Karate; including self-esteem, “command presence   ", self-control, and continuous education. Continually improving your efforts to become a better and more effective member of society.
 In all, Karate is a comprehensive approach to all aspects life.

-Christopher Ruch

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